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14 Worst Couponing Mistakes I Made As An Amateur Couponer

14 Worst Couponing Mistakes I Made As An Amateur Couponer

When you first start couponing, it’s easy to get worked up about saving money with coupons. When I take a walk down memory lane, I realize how addicted I was in my earliest days of couponing, watching my balance plummet at the checkout register and thinking how I was saving up every day.

It’s incredibly satisfying and thrilling to witness your coupon printing and clipping efforts make a huge difference in your bank account by the end of the month. While it’s completely normal to be moved by the savings you are gleaning, are you ensuring that you are using your money and time efficiently?

Here are some of the mistakes I made in my early days of couponing that you should avoid if you want to become a couponing master.

1. Buying useless items just because they were a good deal

Every time I head out to purchase something I know I wouldn’t use, I ask myself the following questions: “Do I want to store this item?” and “Do I want to pay sales tax on this item?”

If I answer No to even one of these, the item goes back on the shelf. The only exception is when the item can prove to be lucrative. If the monetary benefit that I would gain by purchasing the product pays for the sales tax, I ask myself if I can donate or gift this item. If I find myself nodding in the affirmative, the product pays for itself and then I usually give it away.

2. Thinking I had to get my hands on every deal

I taught myself a phrase, rather a mantra, that I like to chant every time I fail to visit a store to grab a hot deal: “You win some, you lose some.”

When it comes to scoring great deals and coupons, you’ll win most of the time. However, accepting that you might lag behind at other times helps you keep a good balance in your life!

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3. Failing to sufficiently stock up on items that I use a lot

I am quite dependent on cough drops and Kleenex in the winters. If I didn’t hoard these treasures at every chance I got, I would end up running out of them and purchasing them at a time when their prices are touching ridiculous heights.

Try to make a list of things you use a lot, or might use at a later time, and buy them beforehand when the right deal comes along. Saving for a rainy day always pays off in the long run.

4. Buying unhealthy items because they are moneymakers or free

I gained quite a few pounds in those first few years of recklessly dedicated couponing since all the unhealthy, expensive items that I would normally steer clear of were either moneymakers, free, or cheap. In my enthralling moment of realization that I could afford all the sodas, chips, candies, and cookies that I wanted, I went overboard without realizing how my dietary habits were worsening.

These days, every time I see an item that doesn’t seem healthy, I ask myself, “Is this worth my health?” If the answer is Yes, it ends up in my cart. However, it doesn’t mean that all deals can wreak havoc on your health. I still stock up on candies a month or two before Halloween when the deals are hot and save myself a fortune. To prevent the inevitable, I stash away the candies in my garage!

5. Having a disheveled coupon folder

It would surprise you to know the number of coupons that I have lost or couldn’t find when I needed them the most! After months of staying higgledy-piggledy, I found my own way of staying organized, which has saved me quite a bit of time and money.

Find a system that works for you, be it sorting out the coupons according to their genres, the stores they are applicable at, how soon you would need them, or putting the coupons that are for the same product together in your folder.

6. Not taking all your coupons to the store

Imagine you walk in to a store and find numerable items on clearance shelves that you remember having a coupon for at home. Had you brought your coupon book with you, you would have gotten those items at amazing deals — i.e. as moneymakers or for free.

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As I learned over time, never part with your coupon book whenever you head out. You never know what life might throw your way!

7. Clipping the coupon before getting the item in my cart

Everybody’s couponing system is different. Experience has taught me that clipping the coupons before even setting foot inside the store depletes much of your precious time. This is because oftentimes the deal isn’t as enticing once you see the product in person, the item is at the wrong price, or even worse, the store has run out of it. Save your coupon until checkout time.

8. Buying items that are priced highly or not on my list

I always make for the clearance racks as soon as I enter a store. However, once you are there, randomly pulling items off the shelves that look flashy, useful, or tasty add to your out-of-pocket money.

Now, I’ve learned to stick to my list, and if I suddenly remember something that I needed but forgot to add to my list, I grab the best deal for it there. It saves money and gas to remember what you need at the store when you are there, rather than going home and making a special trip back for it.

9. Being oblivious to the coupon policies of the stores you are shopping at

If a coupon fails to scan, most store clerks will tell you that it’s bad. However, if you have read up on their coupon policy and have it on your phone, you can show it to them and make them call a manager or put your coupon through anyway. This will prevent your hard-earned coupons from being discarded without reason.

10. Using my coupons on larger-sized products

As a rule of thumb, coupons are usually good for products of a certain minimum size and up.

Most money is saved by using coupons on the smallest size of the product that is valid for that coupon. When I want to buy a myriad of items, I buy more newspapers, trade coupons, or print each coupon multiple times.

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11. Not sending in your rebates

If you stumble across an item at a great price with a rebate and somehow forget to send it in, you are letting bucks slip out of your palms. This reminds me of an old adage, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Until you have submitted the rebate, keep the item close at hand as a constant reminder. Financial laziness is potentially fatal (to your wallet)!

12. Not obeying coupon wordage

In the last decade, especially since the propagation of the show Extreme Couponing, a myriad of policies and restrictions have been imposed on coupons. Throngs of people want to mimic what they see on the show and aspire to do whatever it takes to save big. Some people have even resorted to putting their integrity and honesty on the line for a good deal. However, people like us know it isn’t worth it.

If a coupon is expired, it makes for my trashcan. If a coupon is valid for one per person, I make a habit of taking along a friend or someone else. If a coupon entails that some other item be purchased with it or excludes a certain size of the product, I comply with it.

The couponing industry has lost millions due to erroneous use of coupons, expired coupons, or fraudulent coupons. That said, oftentimes even seasoned couponers fail to read the fine print before sending in a coupon for scanning. It helps to read and re-read the fine print each time to preserve your integrity — “The big print giveth, the small print taketh away.”

13. Purchasing a branded product even if the generic is cheaper

Here is a situation you must be familiar with:

There is a close-out deal when you get to the spaghetti sauce. The generic brand you see is 30 cents cheaper for the same size of Ragu that you wanted to buy using your coupon.

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You may feel the urge to find the pertinent coupon, clip it, and wait as the cashier scans it. However, it is often prudent to restrain your inner coupon-voice of reason. Count your lucky stars that you found something even cheaper and toss it in your cart. Sometimes, you find generic or great last-chance deals that cost even less than the on sale brand name with coupons.

When you are pulling products off the shelves, conduct a quick comparison and pay close attention to weight, quantity, and size. While it’s OK to be loyal to brands, make sure it doesn’t cost you in the long run.

14. Being an inefficient couponer

When you start out with couponing, you might find yourself spending more time and money than needed. It takes time and effort to hone in on your couponing skills. It also costs time, gas, newspapers, and papers to coupon.

A few months into couponing, try to analyze how much money and time you are investing in couponing. Some extreme couponers live highly unbalanced lives, fretting over the next deals and couponing to the extremes. While couponing is highly addictive, just remember that if you aspire to be an efficient couponer, this practical skill can be continued while living a balanced lifestyle as well.

Featured photo credit: Daily Amercian via bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com

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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

2. Keep Goals Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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4. Short Term Vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

  • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
  • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
  • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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5. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

6. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

1. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

Use compound interest when setting financial goals

    Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

    Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

    4. Measure, Measure, Measure

    All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

    If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

    Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

    The Bottom Line

    Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

    and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

    More Tips on Financial Goals

    Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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